Is 2004 Phil Mickelson's year?
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2004 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic | Wrap | 26 Jan 2004
With just two top tens in his last sixteen starts Phil Mickelson, in his typically enigmatic fashion, has won first up in 2004 in a playoff with Skip Kendall at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
Mickelson, who returned from a five month break two years ago to win here, and was sixth last year showed that he thrives on this sort of preparation, this event being his first official PGA Tour event in three months. He had played the Presidents Cup and the ConAgra Skins game but in terms of tournament golf it appears that Mickelson goes well when he is fresh. He and the eventual runner up Kendall vied for the lead in the event from early on day two with Kenny Perry, Kirk Triplett and Jay Haas also in the mix for long periods of time.
Mickelson’s hot start today, where he birdied five of his first seven holes, had those behind floundering in his wake until perhaps, in racing parlance, his condition gave out with bogeys at the 9th, 10th and 14th to allow those chasing a glimpse of hope. Kendall was first to take up the offer with a birdies at the 15th and 16th to move one ahead of Mickelson although a bogey at the par three 17th would prove costly for the man who has yet to win in more than 200 starts on the USPGA Tour. Kendall was able to birdie the last but when Mickelson repeated the dose fifteen minutes later it was back to the 18th tee to determine the winner.
Mickelson appeared to have the edge from the tee at least in terms of distance but both would miss the green and it was then that Mickelson’s great imagination with his short game came to the rescue. An almost repeat shot from the right hand greenside rough set up a tap-in for birdie and when Kendall was unable to match, it was over with Mickelson, going on to win his 22nd event on the USPGA Tour.
There were several interesting points about Mickelson’s game today.
At the par five 14th when in position to go for the green, although it may have been a low percentage shot, decided to lay up and leave a 100 yard shot in to the green. He would go onto three putt for a bogey but perhaps this is a new look Mickelson looking at ways to increase his level of consistency in the heat of the battle. It will be very interesting to see if he continues with this policy in future similar situations.
For Kendall, who has twice previously lost playoffs, he did little wrong. He can be proud of his performance under the gun as he stalked then headed Mickelson before faltering only slightly at the 17th. He made just over US$1 million last year, his best year on tour and it is a fair bet that given his start here, this year may prove to be his best ever.
Jay Haas, now 50-years-old and therefore eligible to play the Champions Tour when invites come his way, was again brilliant in an event where he had finished second last year. When he decides to join the older brigade he will surely have a license to print money but as he showed this week, and on several occasions last year, there is a bit of fight in the old dog yet at this level.
One other performance worthy of mention, amongst the leading group at least, was that of Jesper Parnevik who appears very much to have things back on track after a difficult couple of years. Following on from his 15th place in Hawaii last week it appears Jesper is back.
Rod Pampling was the leading Australasian in 9th place, a costly double bogey at the 13th today somewhat spoiling his day. Still it highlights yet again that Rod Pampling, the winner of just one event in tournament golf, is not far away from winning on the biggest stage of all, the USPGA Tour.
Geoff Ogilvy was 20th, Stephen Leaney 36th, John Senden 41st, Steve Elkington 56th and Grant Waite 66th.
The USPGA Tour now heads to the FBR Open in Arizona.